Archive for February 2011

Elearning training at new ICE Addis

Elearning participants

This afternoon Jaime and I finished delivering our updated Certificate in Online Education to over 25 elearning team staff from 7 universities across Ethiopia, who had all gathered at the new ICT and Technology innovation hub (ICE Addis) at the Ethiopian Institute for Architecture, Building Construction and City Development (EiABC).

We’d been invited by the on.e elearning team (part of ECBP), who have been setting up eCompetence Centres at many Ethiopian Universities. So was a really good chance for us to work with staff from other elearning teams.

We were really pleased how well the training went, all the participants seemed to enjoy the course. We arrived in Addis last weekend, but have been quite flat out with the training and meetings, so haven’t had much chance to blog. Heading up to Mekelle tomorrow afternoon, so for now will just post up a photo of all the participants – will post some more details in the coming days.

Creative Commons COE: download now available

As I mentioned in my previous posting, we’ve been spending some time recently developing a Creative Commons Certificate in Online Education specifically tailored to those teachers new to using online and blended learning. We’ve just released the first version of the course and made it available for download.

You can view the course on our Moodle installation at: (use the ‘login as guest’ option).

You can also download the course in Moodle (1.9) backup format from: so you can install it on your own server to edit/remix/reuse or deliver as-is within your organisation.

The course is still under development, there are many aspects that we’d like to improve, a priority will be to try and reduce the download size, currently it’s around 36Mb, which is likely to be too big for anyone to download on a dial-up speed connection. Any feedback on the course is very welcome and if you use the course materials in your organisation I’d be really interested in hearing about it.

Although this is the first release, we have delivered the content to several groups of teachers over the past 18 months in Mekelle, so it is a product of our experiences running these training courses.

So far, we’ve been delivering the course in blended mode: face to face workshops at the start and end with an online period inbetween. We’re also like to run the course purely online, so we hope to start a facilitated/tutored presentation of the course in the coming months. If you’re interested in participating in this then please contact me.

Development of Creative Commons Certificate in Online Education

Our original plan for delivering the elearning training in Mekelle was to develop our own Moodle training content, maybe not all from scratch, but at least the general structure and depth, reusing existing videos and open content wherever possible. Given the time constraints we had before starting the first training sessions, we were unable to complete writing our own content. Instead we licensed the MoodleBites for Teachers and Course Designers courses so we were able to upload this onto the servers in Mekelle. We did reorganise the content slightly to fit in with what we were trying to achieve, but this was far less effort that writing our own.

Using the MoodleBites content gave us good quality and well structured content and activities and has worked very well for us over the training we’ve been giving for the last 18 months. They’ve also been very helpful in providing a facilitator (Anna) for us to help give some alternative approaches and other perspectives on delivering course online for our course participants. They’ve also generously allowed us to use the content for limited groups outside our original license, without any extra payment.

However in the longer term, as we’re looking to provide elearning training and support to other universities in Ethiopia and further afield, it’s unsustainable for us (or the organisations we’d like to work with) to license the content at each new organisation. So we’ve returned to the idea of developing our own content, specifically, writing a Certificate in Online Education (COE) distributed under a creative commons license.

As with most other open content, the real value comes from the facilitation, tutoring and mentoring along with the actual certificate, rather than the content itself. We’re hoping to use our new content for the training we’ll give in the coming few weeks and takes into account the environmental factors (such as limited bandwidth, initial tutor skills/training) which are different when delivering elearning training in European or US organisations.

Our aim with the Certification in Online Education is not to produce a technical training course in Moodle alone, nor to provide solely elearning/pedagogy theory, but a balance between the two. The MoodleBites training, as it’s name suggests, is focused mainly on Moodle, leading to develop the Moodle skills necessary to complete the Moodle Certification. Our COE isn’t designed as preparation for Moodle Certification, but to provide teachers who have probably never written or used online courses a way in which they can begin to see what’s possible to provide effective (blended) elearning courses by using free software tools and Open Educational Resources.

I’ll post again once we have the course published and available for download.

Update to Online Users Map

I’ve just updated the version of my Online Users Map block for Moodle 1.9 so you have the option of using OpenStreetMap for the map display. I’d already done this for the version of the block for Moodle 2, so was quite easy to retrospectively add this to the 1.9 version too.

You can see a live demo running on my Moodle installation.

Any feedback or comments welcome 🙂

Spain 1 – Colombia 0

Colombian supporters Last night we went to watch Spain play Colombia at the Bernabeu. Quite different atmosphere to the rugby match we saw at the weekend. Seems there were as many (if not more) Colombian supporters than Spanish. The game itself was fairly dull, until around the last 10 minutes.


Short video:

Spain 24 – Russia 28

Spain v Russia

On Saturday we went out to see Spain v Russia in the B league of the Six Nations rugby. I was completely unaware there was a B league in the 6 Nations or that Spain and Russia actually played rugby. It was a fun day out and fantastic sunny day (a little bit of sunburn in February) - but as you can see from the crowd/stadium size in the photos, it's not quite as popular a sport here as it is in the UK...

Hoping to get to see Spain v Columbia (football) at the Bernabeu on Wednesday evening.

Am I an international development worker?

Over the past week or so I’ve read a few blog postings and articles about how to get a job in international development or as an aid worker (Guardian and Aid worker video). I wouldn’t consider myself to be working in, what most people would call, international development (I’ll come onto that later) and certainly not an aid worker. But in any case I thought I’d add my tuppence worth as to how I arrived in the job I’m doing now. Given my lack of (conscious) career planning I’m not sure whether any of this should be taken as sound career advice, but maybe my experience will help someone.

As probably many people reading this already know, I worked at the Open University (UK) for over 7 years. After this amount of time I decided that I needed a change. Not that I particularly wanted to leave the OU, rather, I needed a new challenge and to look at what other options might be out there for me. I’d often considered applying to VSO (Voluntary Services Overseas), but either didn’t think I had the skills/experience needed or was too busy doing other things. I certainly didn’t apply with the explicit intention of then working full time in international development. My first piece of luck was that VSO had a placement available for a project directly in the area I had most experience in (elearning, as I’d been working on at the OU), I’d expected to be offered a placement doing general ICT infrastructure development and skills training.

Whilst working in Mekelle (Ethiopia) I had my second piece of luck, which was to become involved with a project from Alcalá University (near Madrid) which was also trying to develop the elearning capacity and facilities at Mekelle Uni. I extended my VSO placement specifically to continue working on this project and now, here I am almost a year after finishing my VSO placement, working as project manager at Alcalá Uni on the same project in Mekelle and preparing to go back to Ethiopia in a few weeks time. Admittedly my personal circumstances have helped me hugely, I’ve been able to be very flexible as to where I live and be able to travel anywhere anytime. Many other VSO volunteers I knew in Ethiopia returned to their home countries and similar jobs.

So… back to why I don’t consider myself to be an international development worker… I prefer to consider myself to be working on an elearning and ICT project which happens to be in Ethiopia. Most people would probably describe that as international development, although I could work on a similar project anywhere (Russia, Japan, Argentina etc), yes, the circumstances (working culture, state of infrastructure etc) would be different, but aren’t they different in every country, even every organisation, anyway?

For the work I’m now involved in and how we’d like to move forward, keeping ourselves distanced from being seen as an NGO/charity is probably our best way forward. My feeling is that being seen as an NGO/charity may perpetuates the impression that we’re there simply to donate equipment, which then ends up being installed but inoperable and unsupported after only a few months. There is certainly still a place for charities/NGOs etc, especially working in relief work, healthcare & education for the extremely poor, but not so much for ICT development.

Probably the only advice I could give to anyone wanting to get into a similar field (which is much the same as you’ll find in any other article about careers in international development) which is that you must to spend some time abroad (probably volunteering) to really gain an appreciation of the issues and challenges faced. Just having a Masters or some other qualification won’t be enough. Apart from the few days in pre-departure training with VSO, I have no formal training or qualifications in international development.

Perhaps I’ve just been very lucky or perhaps I made my own luck, I’ll leave it to you to decide which!

Jobs available

In the last couple of days I’ve received couple of emails about web/IT jobs which may be of interest to people reading this blog, one voluntary and one paid…

Firstly, a voluntary short term IT job (sys/network admin & web development) in Tanzania with Mpingo Conservation & Development Initiative. I’ve not got a weblink for the full job info, but can email on to you if interested.

Secondly, (paid) web developer job with Aptivate – international IT development company who I did some work with last summer in Cambridge, see Aptivate website for full details.